Nov 05, 2018 LifeWear
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, supporting more than 10,000 homeless young people each year. The charity’s focus is providing those at risk with the practical and emotional support necessary to secure accommodation, find a job or re-enter education and live independently.

UNIQLO has been in partnership with Centrepoint for a number of years, supporting the charity on past projects like SleepOut, which involved donations of HEATTECH clothing. As part of Centrepoint’s drive to inspire positive change in the lives of vulnerable young people, they use sport and physical fitness combinated with education, life skills and employment training to transform lives.

A popular programme called Street Football Team England sees male and female players who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion participating in competitive street football. This programme has resulted in the formation of a team which competes in the Homeless World Cup, an international endeavour which involves the team travelling to several countries between the months of April and January.

For the 2018 competition, UNIQLO provided the team with activewear clothing and matchwear kit to support their training and performance.

When Leaha came to Centrepoint Sport, struggles with her housing had left her suffering from anxiety, feeling isolated and facing an uncertain future.

Centrepoint Sport’s Team England programme has been life changing for her. Through football she has found friends, learned important life skills and has experienced improved self-confidence and mental health.

“Before I joined Street Football Team England, I suffered with anxiety and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to deal with that many people,” Leaha explains. “But Centrepoint has been very considerate of that – they adjust to everyone’s individual needs. With myself, it started off with a little group and they kind of gradually brought me into the wider group, so I’m fine with doing the bigger group activities now. Some of the workshops consist of things like help with qualifications and help with thinking about our futures. They’ve also given us work experience.”

Leaha had the opportunity to compete with Centrepoint in the Futebol de Rua, an international tournament in Portugal.

“The biggest problem we faced was the communication barrier, but despite that it was brilliant – we made plenty of friends. During the tournament, on the second-last day one of our players got injured and they needed someone to take her to hospital. I was the one who volunteered to do that, so I actually missed out on the last day of football. When we got back from hospital we found that despite the language barrier, two of Porto’s team volunteered to play with our team to make up the numbers so we could still qualify. It was such a brilliant culture experience as well, we learnt a lot about them. One of the main things I want to say is these kinds of opportunities don’t come around very often, so if you get the chance – take it! It’ll be a life changer.”

"When we went to Portugal, we were one of the very few teams who were lucky enough to have a decent kit. I remember we shared a coach from the airport to Braga and the first thing the one of the other teams got their translator to say to us was that they were jealous of our kit. Until you get given your shirt with your name, you don’t understand the feeling of pride you feel when you put it on. It’s like you’ve achieved, you’re there and you’re doing it.”

Leaha wants to volunteer with Centrepoint Sport now to help other homeless young people get involved in the programme. She also has a passion to work with disability sport and is working towards a qualification in sports leadership.

Visit the Centrepoint website.